Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

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Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby meindzai » Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:07 pm

Hi folks! Been awhile. I have been in school, so haven't done much on forums outside of my current field of study (mathematics).

I find myself in a funny position of being in a Buddhist Philosophy class. I needed a 4000 level credit, so why not.

We are expected to do a presentation at some point, and while I am overwhelmed with the possibilities, one that struck me was to talk about the variety of philosophical and religious tradition at the time of the Buddha. I think this is is under-emphasised in most Buddhist texts, which speak of india as being more or less homogenous philosophically (i.e. the Buddha taught kamma and rebirth because "everyone believed it.")

I've found that, particularly in the Majjhima Nikaya, which I have studied the most, the Buddha engages in debate with MANY philosophers and leaders of religious sects. Unfortunately, it's not like I've kept a tab on these in my head, so I was hoping you could all help me out.

For example, there were people that did not believe in rebirth, otherwise there would be no need for something such as the apannaka sutta. We also have annihilationists, creationists, cosmologists (people discussing the origins and fate of the universe) We have people who think the soul is separate from the body, (might we call them cartesians?) and those that think the soul is the same as the body.

I think that for almost any philosophy we attribute to some "western" thinker, there was an analog around at the time of the Buddha. And the Buddha typically argued against such philosophy as either wrong or just papanca. Essentially I plan to challenge the class by saying that the Buddha did not really engage in philosophy. (Strictly speaking, not true, but I'd like to be provocative.)

There is a sutta somewhere, I think, where the Buddha even says that his discipline is the type that "does not engage in debates," or somesuch. But I am currently unable to find it.

Any contribution, especially with quotes, would be appreciated. I'll even post my own findings here in this thread since I'll continue to search.

Regards,

Dave K/Meindzai
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Re: Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby meindzai » Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:29 pm

That is *extremely* helpful. Thanks Mike.

Though I also found out computation and calculation is apparently a debased art. :tongue:

-Dave K
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Re: Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:42 pm

Also, when you find a discussion in a sutta, you can look up the name of the protagonist in the
Dictionary of Proper Pali Names http://www.aimwell.org/DPPN/
and see if there are other references.
http://suttacentral.net/ is then a useful place to locate an on-line reference...

E.g. see: http://www.aimwell.org/DPPN/nigantha_nataputta.htm
The first reference (S.i.66) at Sutta Central http://suttacentral.net/search?query=SN+i+66 gives more discussion about him.

:anjali:
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Re: Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:45 pm

You can also check out Richard Gombrich "What the Buddha Thought", for an extensive discussion of Brahmin thought, and how the Buddha may have been commenting on it in many discourses.
See, e.g. here: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=7464

:anjali:
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Re: Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby meindzai » Fri Feb 07, 2014 7:28 pm

Well, I started to put together a bunch of stuff, and then find out I have about 8 minutes to talk. That's hardly enough for an introduction.

So, it was a good exercise, not for naught I suppose. Maybe I'll just finish it and put it together here when I have time.

So instead I will probably talk about the apanakka sutta and compare it with Pascal's wager or something. sigh.

(My wife says I am probably the only college student that complains that the talks and papers I get assigned are too short).

-Dave K
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Re: Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby daverupa » Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:08 pm

This is an upper-division course?

With eight minutes, I'd talk about how the Buddha set aside metaphysics as a waste of time due to the impractical speculative aspects of that sort of thought, and see how many of your philosophy peers get uppity or otherwise become keen on a phenomenological discussion...

Maybe declare that Chalmers' hard problem of consciousness is naught but chaff in the breeze, a useless pursuit, and that the soft problem of consciousness is the only consciousness-problem the Buddha pursued.

:shrug:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Philosophers at the Time of the Buddha

Postby meindzai » Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:02 am

daverupa wrote:This is an upper-division course?

With eight minutes, I'd talk about how the Buddha set aside metaphysics as a waste of time due to the impractical speculative aspects of that sort of thought, and see how many of your philosophy peers get uppity or otherwise become keen on a phenomenological discussion...


That was kind of the point of my first talk, but to do that, I would want to do it pretty thoroughly, backing it up with scriptural references, at which point it gets longer. I don't want to just go up and assert something.


Maybe declare that Chalmers' hard problem of consciousness is naught but chaff in the breeze, a useless pursuit, and that the soft problem of consciousness is the only consciousness-problem the Buddha pursued.

:shrug:


I think the apannaka sutta/pascal's wager one will be good . Since I'm a math major, I get to make the relation to decision theory, then slam the mathematician (pascal). :)

-Dave K
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